Town Hall plan funding bid
A community plan to save the heart of a town hall for the public will be put forward for government funding next week.
The scheme to convert Hitchin Town Hall into a district museum while preserving the main hall for community events had the final touches put to it today (Thursday), before it is sent for consideration by the Community Builders Fund.
Devised by a collection of Hitchin action groups, led by Hitchin Initiative with help from North Herts District Council, the scheme was put forward after the council proposed using Mountford Hall as the main exhibition space – removing the largest secular community space in the town.
Keith Hoskins, Hitchin Initiative manager, said: “We are playing a waiting game at the moment. We have finished the much more detailed work required for the community business plan. That will go to the Community Builders Fund and we should hear back in six to eight weeks, so by the end of September.”
There had been fears that the Government would cut the fund in line with other savings, but these have proved unfounded.
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“The fund has not suffered in the Government cutbacks because of the whole Big Society idea. We are probably well placed in that thinking,” Mr Hoskins said.
Before a decision can be made on which plan to go ahead with, the outcome of an application by conservation group Keep Hitchin Special to have the building listed by English Heritage must be decided. This was due to be reached last month but is still being considered. A council spokesman said they were in the dark about when a decision would be made.
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But Mr Hoskins was confident that even if the building was listed it would not affect the community plan, but rather the council’s original scheme to split the main hall into two floors.
“If you are going to list the building then the Mountford Hall would be a likely candidate,” he said. “Then it would be very difficult to put in a mezzanine floor.”
Lynn Saville, head of community and cultural cervices at the council, said both plans were now complete but “we cannot move any further forward until we get a decision from English Heritage”.
She added: “We will continue to work closely with Hitchin Initiative to come up with the best solution for North Herts.”